10 councils have become the first in England to add their support to the call for the Community Wealth Fund, a new independent endowment to invest in the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods in the country.
The 10 councils are:
- Durham County Council
- Birmingham City Council
- Peterborough City Council
- Cambridgeshire County Council
- Preston City Council
- Newcastle City Council
- Sunderland City Council
- Thanet District Council
- Calderdale Council
- Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
They have become the first local authorities to join a growing alliance of over 250 organisations supporting the call for significant new investment to enable communities to transform their neighbourhoods.
The Community Wealth Fund would take a radically different approach to most funding bodies, with communities at a neighbourhood level supported to take spending decisions. Awards of £2m would be made to each community to spend over the long term (10-15 years), building community resilience and strength and increasing their confidence and capacity to turn their areas around.
The Alliance is calling on government to make the proposal a reality, by releasing the next wave of dormant, or orphaned, assets from stocks, shares, bonds and insurance policies to create a £4bn endowment.
The proposal has the support of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. Launched earlier this summer, the Group was set up to find long-term policy solutions to improve the social and economic prospects of the 225 wards identified as being both the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country and those with the least community provision. They are neighbourhoods which lack places for people to meet, community activities and have low levels of digital connectivity and poor local transport. These wards have worse social and economic outcomes than neighbourhoods that are similarly deprived but which have such provision. Pre-pandemic the gap was growing and is now likely to grow even further.
Now, the Community Wealth Fund Alliance is asking more councils to add their name and support the call for investment in the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods.
Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader at Preston City Council, said: “The current pandemic has shown how brilliantly our communities and local authorities can work together. Now it’s time for us to support them in return. A Community Wealth Fund is a great way to use dormant funds and at the same time give communities a real direct voice in how money would be invested in them, and their neighbourhoods, to help them become more resilient now and in the future.
This Fund supports the aim of the Preston Model, which seeks to build wealth and prosperity for everyone. Supporting it was an easy decision to make and we now call on others to do the same.
Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Paul Stewart said: “Sunderland City Council is proud to be among the first to support the call for a Community Wealth Fund.
The council is determined as part of its City Plan to deliver a more dynamic, healthy and vibrant Sunderland and the introduction of a Community Wealth Fund would be another step towards making this a reality.
Councillor Joyce McCarty, deputy leader at Newcastle City Council said: “Throughout this pandemic we have seen the diverse communities of Newcastle come together to show great resilience, spirit and grit. The Community Wealth fund would provide a platform to help these neighbourhoods recover from the devastating effects of Coronavirus and would mean the communities are given the powers and funding to shape their local areas.
I would encourage local authorities across the country to sign up and support this vital proposal and call for greater community investment.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said: “Establishing the Community Wealth Fund would be a radical step to allow local people to make important decisions to shape the future of their communities. After a decade of austerity and challenges of Covid-19, this new Fund would be a fantastic way of helping our communities recover.”
Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said: “The aims of the fund would fit well with our Vision2024 for Calderdale, which is to be a place defined by our innate kindness and resilience, by how our people care for each other, are able to recover from setbacks and are full of hope.
Our communities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us yet again the resilience and enterprise of local people who have come together to help each other during this challenging time. Establishing a fund from dormant assets that helps local people to have a say over future investment in their own neighbourhoods will help us in our ambition to rebuild our communities post-coronavirus.”
Councillor Rob Yates, Cabinet Member for Finance, Admin and Community Wealth Building, Thanet District Council, said: “As a coastal area in the perceived ‘rich South East’, I fully support this scheme to provide social infrastructure investment to some of the most deprived and ‘left behind’ wards in our country.
Such investment could do so much to reduce deprivation as well as improve skills and outcomes in these areas. This is a national issue and needs to be addressed as such. We are proud to put our names to the Community Wealth Fund Alliance and hope other councils will follow suit.
Margaret Bolton Director of Policy at Local Trust, who provide the secretariat to the Alliance, said: “Local authorities are perfectly placed to help make the Community Wealth Fund a reality, and we’re keen to see support for the idea building across all tiers of local government.
“The pandemic has brought home to all of us the importance of place and the value of community action and working together. A Community Wealth Fund would provide long-term funding and support for such activity, helping to create stronger and more resilient communities, able to work with their local councils to meet community needs and respond to community aspirations, building community wealth and creating a better future for the communities that feel most ‘left behind'”.